A senior Everton-supporting UK politician is facing defeat in his bid to get Football Association chairman Greg Dyke to intervene in a ticket dispute with Arsenal.
Labour MP Andy Burnham, the Shadow Health Secretary, has written to Dyke calling for action over the number of seats Everton fans have been given for their FA Cup quarterfinal at the Emirates Stadium on Mar. 8.
FA Cup rules state that away teams can ask for up to 15 percent of seats for all ties up to and including the quarterfinals, meaning Everton were entitled to 9,000 seats in a stadium that holds 60,000.
But Arsenal’s Safety Advisory Group has cut that allocation to 5,186 on safety grounds.
The group -- made up of representatives from Arsenal, Islington Council and the local police and transport authorities -- have cited concerns over fans standing in the upper tiers of the stadium, along with worries regarding the possible use of smoke bombs and fireworks.
And sources have told ESPN that the FA would not intervene in such cases, because safety concerns override the rule regarding ticket distribution.
In his letter to Dyke, Burnham argues that the cut in allocation “is at risk of damaging the fairness and spirit of the FA Cup.”
Burnham wrote: “The views of the Ground Safety Advisory Group are important and should not be ignored, but I fail to see how a club with years of experience handling big fixtures, in a purpose built stadium, cannot devise a solution to meet the ticketing rules.
“It is also worth saying that any Safety Advisory Group will be more influenced by the views of one club. In situations like this, surely there is a role for the FA to broker a more independent view, fair to both sets of supporters?”
The tie will be Arsenal’s fourth at home in this season’s FA Cup, and the third for which they have cut the away side’s ticket allocation.
Tottenham’s allocation was cut to just over 5,000 in round three, as was Liverpool’s in round five -- with safety reasons cited in both cases.
Yet when League One side Coventry visited the Emirates Stadium in round four, they were offered a bigger allocation of 8,686 tickets.
Burnham added: “Everton supporters travel all over the country in large numbers and at great expense. Over the years, our club has helped build the FA Cup into what it is today.
“I believe the FA owes it to Everton to uphold the rights of our supporters, as set out by the FA, to be part of this important occasion.
“I therefore call on the FA to take urgent action to ensure a full and fair allocation for visiting Everton supporters and, in doing so, uphold the traditions and spirit of its own competition.”
A spokesman for the FA told ESPN: "FA Cup rules allow for an away allocation of up to 15 percent of the home stadium. However this is subject to the local Safety Advisory Group (SAG) agreeing to that ticket allocation number.
"The SAG is made up of services such as the local council, police, fire brigade and the club amongst others and issues the stadium’s health and safety certificate.In regards to the Arsenal v Everton sixth-round tie at the Emirates on Mar. 8, the local SAG has chosen to allocate just under nine percent to the Everton supporters.
"Although we appreciate the disappointment in the SAG not granting the full 15 percent allocation, it is nearly double the amount of tickets that Everton would have received for the Premier League fixture at the Emirates back in December.
"The FA does not have any input into the decision of the SAG and cannot change it as this is a matter of health and safety."